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Technology alum fast-tracks career with Chicagoland Speedway internship

Kristen and TJ

Kristin Pearson, '13 with fellow alum T.J. Zizzo '97

Many College of Applied Science and Technology graduates look to internships as a way to jump-start their careers. Instead of a jump start, one alumna chose to start her career at 300 mph.

Of course, this is to be expected at the Chicagoland Speedway.

Kristin Pearson, ’13 began her internship at the Chicagoland Speedway just two days after graduation in May and will continue to work there until September’s GEICO 400 Sprint Cup Series race. While on campus, Pearson was a member of Pi Sigma Epsilon, a coed marketing and sales fraternity. One of the members suggested she attend a Sports Internship Fair, where she dropped off her resume at the Chicagoland Speedway booth.

Pearson can attest that working hard on your resume pays off. “I spent hours on it,” she said. Knowing that she was looking for something in the sports industry, she created a tri-fold brochure with a front that looked like a sports ticket. The extra effort was worth it, as it caught the eye of Creative Services Manager Don McClelland, who hired Pearson after two rounds of interviews.

Pearson has had many great experiences during her internship, including crossing paths with T.J. Zizzo ’97, the drag racer for Zizzo Racing. Both Pearson and Zizzo are alumni of the college’s Department of Technology.

“It was really cool to meet him,” said Pearson. “He was so nice and personable!”

Pearson has also met other Redbirds that work at the speedway. “It’s nice to have that shared experience and background,” she said.

While at Illinois State, Pearson focused on graphic communication. Her internship at the Chicagoland Speedway as a graphic design assistant allows her the opportunity to put her skills to the test.

“I am pushing myself to get better at designing, which is certainly not easy, but it is an amazing experience,” Pearson said.

Pearson’s design projects have included website advertisements for RadioDisney.com and Boy Scouts of America’s RainbowCouncil.org, large branding banners, and kiosk designs.

“Working here is a dream come true because it is so rewarding to put months of effort and work into just one weekend,” Pearson explained. “It is great to be able to look back and be proud of the success.”

In addition to graphic design, Pearson also works all the events at the track, which entails working in the merchandise trailer or the infield credential office, allowing her to learn more about the racing industry firsthand. “Working at events that have such a high exposure to the public is very rewarding,” Pearson said. “I am so proud to see my work being viewed by so many people.”

This public environment has Pearson striving for perfection every day. “One thing I’ve learned about NASCAR fans is that if they don’t like something or something is wrong, they will call you out,” she said of the enthusiastic crowds that line the track. So Pearson and her team set high standards and work to make every piece perfect.

“It’s really cool to see a group of people working hard year round to pull off these events,” she said.

As many alumni can attest, an internship is the perfect opportunity to help you determine your career focus, and Pearson has found this to be the case. “I definitely know now that I want to work for a specific event or team,” she said. “I definitely want to stay in the sports industry due to the fast-paced nature of the industry and the fun office environment!”

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